In an interesting article in The Scotsman last week a Scottish MEP courted controversy by claiming that “in terms of international trade French is a very minor language”, and suggesting that schoolchildren should learn “Spanish or Arabic or Mandarin or even German” are these are more useful in terms of international business.
In the UK the choice of languages for school children tends to be limited by what their teachers are qualified to teach. There is a great emphasis on European languages such as French and German, and very few children get the chance to learn Chinese, for example which is the most widely-spoken language in the world.
The MSP, Murdo Fraser, admitted that there are benefits to language learning in general, as it allows us to develop an understanding of other cultures. At la Academia we believe this understanding of foreign cultures is one of the key benefits to learning a language. There are many others, proven by research, in terms of brain development and positive impacts on pupils’ understanding of their own language.
La Academia would argue that the key is to learn at least 1 foreign language, preferably two, as a child in order to develop the language areas of the brain. No-one knows what language they may be required to use in the future, but getting a good language grounding means that we have the framework to build on in adult life. If you want to learn another language, such as Arabic or Japanese, there is no reason not to do so as an adult. Adults learn differently to children – they are often more focused and motivated – and it is perfectly possible to learn a language in adulthood with some work. Good teaching and some application is required, as with the learning of any new skill.
There are 2 things we take from this MSP’s arguments – 1. The importance of learning a language as a child (it’s not so important which one) and 2. As an adult, realising that it is still possible to learn languages and getting the right help if you need to learn a language such as Japanese, Chinese, Arabic or Russian from scratch.
La Academia can help both children and adults on their language journey – contact us to learn more!